‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June

main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!




ABS (alak babae sugal): the conceit of “only in the Philippines”


thanks and acknowledgment to businessmirror.com.ph !

I’M NOT sure what the Pinoy translation of breathtakingly naive is (Google Translate says nakakaakit na walang muwang, and it just doesn’t do the job for me)  but admittedly I will always be breathtakingly naive when it comes to Pinoys outdoing and outperforming everybody else in the world. For me, we will always be the best in certain things, I don’t even need to cite examples. You know who you are, and what you do best.

Unfortunately, I’m also naive in thinking where we’re worst at, and not even living in New Zealand the better part of this decade has changed this. I actually thought Pinoys were the best (worst), or at least among the best (worst) in the traditional ABS vices: alak, babae & sugal (alcohol, womanizing and gambling). I thought that per capita and in absolute terms (on a per person as well as in total amount) we were by far among the world leaders.

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luck and skill, although ultimately House Always Wins. thanks and acknowledgment to cardschat.com !

I now know that this is far from true. In a recent article, total gambling losses were divided among the total adult population to determine the gambling burden each person bore. You might be surprised, but the Philippines isn’t even in the top ten, average-wise. I’ll save you the trouble if you don’t have time to click through the story (but it’s quite cleverly written): Australia is Number 1, followed by Singapore. Ireland is #3. In this case, statistics don’t lie, because the magnitude of gambling is seen against the size of the country’s population.

In absolute terms, meaning, in total amount gambled, again, we aren’t in the top 10 either. In case you’re interested, Number One is Uncle Sam USA, China is 2nd, followed closely by Japan at third. This time it would be understandable because those are giant economies we’re talking about, they naturally would have bigger amounts to gamble with. But there are other medium sized economies in the top 10 as well. Either we didn’t crack the top 10 or we just aren’t the world-class gamblers we thought we were.

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And did you think Pinoy husbands had the most wandering eyes when it comes to leggy skirts, tight tights and generous bosoms? Again, with nine European countries in the list (the lone exception being Thailand, number one!) we’re not even in the top 10 when it comes to percentage of married adults admitting having had an affair at least once in their married lives. So point to Catholic guilt, the proverbial rolling pin or just plain old Pinoy values, there’s still hope for our Pinoy husbands.

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And at 107th out of 191 countries whose data was recorded and analyzed by the World Health Organization, according to Wikipedia, we’re not even moderate drinkers by any standard. We only drink 5.4 liters per person, although the average is heavily skewed (or imbalanced) by lambanog (fermented coconut wine) and Ginebra San Miguel drinkers in the rural areas, where we all know most of the drinking and alcohol goes. In case you wanted to know, the top three nations in alcohol consumed, per capita, are Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania, 1-2-3 respectively. Russia, who gave vodka to the world, is a tipsy 4th, while Germany, where it’s part of the culture to start drinking beer in your pre-teens, is a surprising 23rd.

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So we are probably known for other things in the world: our ability to work anywhere and with anyone; our smiles and hospitality, and our ability to speak English. But we’re not necessarily known for our vices, and now, we have the stats to (not) back this up. Bottom line, we’re very moderate in our guilty pleasures, good for us!

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!



may forever pa rin: do migrant couples stick together longer?


Thanks and acknowledgment for the Quinones family pic to newzealandnow.govt.nz and of course the Quinones family! maraming salamat po!

[ NoteCongrats to Anita Mansell, Bulwagan Foundation Trust and all the organizers, sponsors and participants in Fil-Trip of Wellington! ]

IF WE had removed that question mark at the end of the title above, it would be so presumptuous sounding. Why would migrant couples be considered any more loyal to each other than their home-bound counterparts? Why would I discriminate against couples who chose to stay in the Philippines, raise families and remain close to the extended family?

And that’s why, spoiler alert po, there is nothing scientifically accurate or facts-based about my idea that couples who migrate, either together or one shortly after the other (for practical reasons) have a better chance at their relationship than a similar couple back home.

But my experience and empirical observation (just looking around me and keeping eyes and ears open) leads me to believe that migrant couples have a lot of factors going for them. I’m almost sure that many  many couples have a stronger, stabler and long-lasting relationship relatively speaking, than if they had stayed at home, chose not to make sacrifices in terms of finances and career, and chose to devote more time to each other in the Philippines.

You see, more than singles or people recovering from broken relationships couples particularly tend up to give a little more leaving familiar shores of the homeland. They leave solid jobs, the comfort of extended families, the stability of home-based finances etc. The chances of earning more and saving more may be greater overseas, but the uncertainty is daunting.

The clear motive for couples is the future. Raising young families and committing more time for each other, returning to the basics of the marriage, that, as well as of course the quality of life, seems to be the focus. In my humble opinion, what do migrant couples have going for them?

Fusion of goals. In marriage and relationships we often hear of alignment or adjustment of goals. We do this for harmony in the relationship, or bonding of the couple, or spending of more time together, natural objectives in any long-term relationship.

When a couple migrates, the alignment or union of goals becomes not only desirable, it becomes essential to the continued survival of the two members of the relationship, which is what makes up the couple after all. Alignment is now fusion of goals, what is the goal of one becomes the goal of the other as well. Everything, from the finances, to scheduling of jobs, free time, even the minutest details of routines in daily lives, becomes a total team effort. Only migrant couples will fully appreciate this observation, but it is extremely relateable to any couple that strives to do things together. To a romantically neurotic degree nga lang.

Less or no secrets from each other. Aminin na natin (let’s admit it), no marriage or relationship is perfect. And one of the greatest thorns on the side of the happy couple are the secrets and skeletons in the closet. We’re only human, and there are things that out of fear, guilt or awareness that a partner might get hurt we tend to keep from our spouses.

Because migration forces us to be extra extra-close to our loved ones, keeping secrets become impossible. Remember, nearly ALL our free hours after work are spent together. If ever we have recreational activities with or without the kids, 99% of time it will be spent together. Honesty and openness between husband and wife becomes second nature, the family could not survive otherwise. Anyone caught in a lie would spell disaster not only for the couple but the rest of the family as well. Anong mukha ang maipapakita nila kapag umuwi sila sa Pilipinas? And so out of necessity or love (or maybe both), the couple becomes true, or truer to each other. And the winner ultimately is the relationship.

Us-against-the-world circle the wagon mentality. Because of priorities, necessity and the nature of migrant living, everything takes second place to the family. All other distractions, like hobbies, physical activity, sometimes even religion are kept outside the focus of daily life of the migrant couple. Instead of making their relationship more difficult, it most likely will make them closer.

The couple (and by extension, their family) have no choice but to concentrate on each other, their needs, hopes and dreams. Not coincidentally, the partners’ hopes and dreams become similar, and ultimately identical to each other. Which, when you think about it, is what marriage and  a relationship is all about. When two become one.

Someday, psychologists, social scientists and relationship experts will find a way to break down how much more (or less) successful migrants couple are than other kinds. In the meantime, we’re just waiting to confirm what most of us already know: that in the migrant couple’s experience, may forever (there’s such a thing as forever).

Thanks for reading!